I was nominated by a friend on Facebook to do the “Top 10 albums over 10 days” challenge. I’ve been wanting to write about my favourite albums ever for a very long time, and I figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to do so! So feel free to join me on my journey, as we look through my top 10 albums of all-time!

#6: Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero

When Trent Reznor said he was “over” his depression, it raised a lot of intrigue on how it would affect his Nine Inch Nails material. However, I don’t think anyone ever expected this! Year Zero stands-out as one of his strangest and most complex pieces of work, also being his strongest. The sounds here were much heavier on the electronic side than Reznor had ever been before, and it resulted in gritty sounding danceable anthems that made the record an engrossing listen from start to finish. It’s even more impressive that it never falls apart and remains consistently strong throughout, considering how many tracks he managed to cram in. The instrumental intro of “Hyperpower!” almost sounds like a death march with the feeling of impending doom that builds into an explosive sound. “The Beginning of the End” and “Survivalism” bring out the catchy, dark electro rythms, whilst “The Good Soldier” has a more sombre tone. “Vessel” has a very dirty, sexy feel to it, and comes across as the album’s answer to “Closer”, meanwhile “Me, I’m Not” has a very schizophrenic style with twisted sounding synths, almost having a hip-hop feel at times. “Captial G” is one of the most talked about tracks, as it was clearly taking a stab at George Bush (who was president of the USA at the time this was released.) It’s a catchy number, backed and contextualised by Reznor’s rage. “My Violent Heart” is a song of two halves, starting off calm, then turning into a massive wall of sound. The contrast between the two styles helps to drive the track forward. Oddly, the out of tune acoustic guitar melody compliments the heavily distorted glitch-laden “The Warning”, giving the track a very melancholy, dark feel. “God Given” comes across at the catchiest track on the album, it’s soundscape building an anthemic feel that works perfectly in a club setting. “Meet Your Master” manages to sound like one of the most rock tracks on the album, even though though it’s an amalgamation of electro goodness, progressing to the much more eerie and ambient “The Greater Good.” The combination of guitar and electronic elements works perfectly for “The Great Destroyer”, and the chaotic outro, comprised of a soundscape that sounds like a scene of absolute destruction is pure genius. More haunting ambience and piano comprise “Another Version of The Truth”. It genuinely as an unsettling sorrowful tone to it, and is the perfect contrast to the previous track, as if dealing with a fallout. Despite the grim tones of “In This Twilight”, it has an oddly optimistic feel too it, and closing track “Zero-Sum” gives Year Zero and atmospheric finish.

Whilst it still comes across with all the angst and hatred that NIN is known for, it’s done in a different way here. Instead of focusing on self-loathing, it’s a concept album, one of how the USA is taken over by a police state, much akin to the world of George Orwell’s 1984. The way the tracks flow so naturally into each other, and the multitude of moods that are conveyed, perfectly bring this concept across extremely naturally. Scarily enough, this all came into fruition from a daydream Reznor had, a vision of how the world could turn out 15 years from when the album was released. Perhaps he was more right that he, or we, could have ever realised. It’s a cautionary tale that sends a strong message, and it feels more relevant than ever before.

Released: 2007, Genre: Industrial

Tracklist:

  1. Hyperpower!

  2. The Beginning of The End

  3. Survivalism

  4. The Good Soldier

  5. Vessel

  6. Me, I’m Not

  7. Captial G

  8. My Violent Heart

  9. The Warning

  10. God Given

  11. Meet your Master

  12. The Greater Good

  13. The Great Destroyer

  14. Another Version of the Truth

  15. In This Twilight

  16. Zero-Sum